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Eldred James Simkins (1838-1903)

Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, 1892-1894

Eldred James Simkins was born October 13, 1838, in South Carolina 's Edgefield District to an old and prosperous South Carolina family. He attended South Carolina College, from which he graduated in 1859.

When the Civil War broke out Simkins volunteered in the Confederate army, serving first in the Hampton Legion and then as an officer in the First Regular Confederate Artillery Regiment. Simkins was married in 1864, and the couple had a family that grew to include two sons and three daughters. Following the war his family estate was confiscated, and he moved to Monticello, Florida, where he was admitted to the bar and practiced law with his brother, William Stewart Simkins, for several years. While in Florida, the two brothers organized the Florida Ku Klux Klan.

In 1871 the Simkins brothers relocated with their families to Corsicana, Texas, and set up a law practice there. Simkins also edited the Navarro Banner, and was elected district attorney of the Thirty-fifth Judicial District in 1872. The Greek Revival style home that Simkins built in Corsicana in 1873, conveniently located one block from the courthouse square, is today a Texas historical landmark.

In 1882 Simkins was appointed a regent of the University of Texas, and was twice reappointed to the position, serving until 1896. (Simkins' brother, William, would become a faculty member at The University of Texas law school from 1899 to 1929, where he was arguably the most colorful figure in the school's history and was credited with inventing the mythical animal, the Peregrinus, which serves as the school's symbol.)

In 1884 Eldred Simkins represented the Ninth Congressional District at the National Democratic Convention. In 1886 he was elected to the Texas senate, representing the district composed of Navarro, Limestone, and Freestone Counties in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Legislatures. There he played a prominent role in establishing the Texas Railroad Commission.

In 1892 Simkins was appointed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals by Gov. James S. Hogg to fill the unexpired term of James M. Hurt, who had become the court's presiding judge. Simkins was elected to the position at the next general election. After serving one term, Simkins retired to resume private legal practice in Corsicana.

A man of cultivated manners stemming from his privileged Southern background, Simkins was also remembered as a widely read and able lawyer, an eloquent orator, a hardworking senator, and a strong advocate for higher education in the state of Texas. He died in Corsicana on June 25, 1903.

Sources

In Memoriam, 45 Texas Criminal Reports v-ix (1904).

Simkins, Eldred James, Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001). http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/SS/fsi11.html

Simkins, William Stewart, Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001). http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/SS/fsi12.html

W[illiam] S[tewart] Simkins, Professor of Law in the University of Texas, "Why the Ku Klux", 4 The Alcalde 735-748 (June 1916). Reproduced by University of Denver School of Law (last updated March 24, 2006).
http://www.law.du.edu/russell/lh/alh/docs/simkins.html

Herchel Stephens and Mrs. Allen Edens, Jr. The History of the Judge Eldred James Simpkins Homestead, XX Navarro County Scroll, 1975, Navarro County TXGen Web (last updated March 15, 2005).
http://www.rootsweb.com/~txnavarr/homes/e_h_simkins_home.htm